The Note: Play Ball


There are only two stories in all of American politics today.

(And by "today" we mean "this day -- Monday," not "these days.")

One is: What percentage of the negative press being rained down on Memphis straw poll champion Sen./Dr./Leader Frist is being generated by potential 2008 rivals who think they see a chance to remove one piece from the Stratego board even before it is actually set up?

And the other story is: (most) politicians and (most) political reporters actually wanted to be professional athletes or sports writers (and still do). So on this day when the Googling monkeys are obsessed with the over/under in the NC2A men's basketball final, let us tell you in granular detail about the past and future of a frustrated Willie Mays and former MLB owner.

Courtesy of the reportorially meticulous Karen Travers (a three-time MVP and Golden Glove winner for ABC News):

President Bush throws out the ceremonial first pitch at the Cincinnati Reds home opener against the Chicago Cubs, at approximately 2:04 pm ET and then stay at the game for a few innings.

President Bush is the former owner of the Texas Rangers and an avid baseball fan. He has thrown out a ceremonial first pitch at Major League Baseball games the last two seasons

Here is a list of President Bush's first pitches since he took office in 2001:

April 3, 2006

Cincinnati Reds vs. Chicago Cubs – Cincinnati OH

Aug 13, 2005

Little League Baseball's Southwestern Regional tournament – Waco TX

April 14, 2005

Washington Nationals vs. Arizona Diamondbacks – Washington DC

April 6, 2004

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Milwaukee Brewers – St. Louis MO

March 21, 2003 - cancelled appearance in Cincinnati

President Bush was invited to throw out the first pitch at the Cincinnati Reds new stadium but the White House declined the invitation and sent former President George H. W. Bush instead. And he came through, pitching a strike.

October 30, 2001

World Series Game 3: New York Yankees v. Arizona Diamondbacks – Yankee Stadium, New York City

This was President Bush's third trip to New York City after the attacks of Sept. 11. He walked to the mound wearing a sweatshirt that said FDNY and threw a strike just off the center of the plate as the crowd of more than 57,000 chanted "USA, USA"

That series and President Bush's pitch were chronicled in the documentary, "Nine Innings From Ground Zero" and he describes the pitch in an interview from the Oval Office. "The president expresses his own awe for the newly exalted Yankees, calling the shortstop 'the great Derek Jeter,' who had just warned the 'Prez' that cutting the distance between pitcher's mound and home plate would be a sign of more than just a weak arm. 'I didn't want people to think their president was incapable of finding the plate,' Mr. Bush later explains from the Oval Office." (New York Times, Sept. 14, 2004)

And: bonus Bush baseball coverage!!!!!

August 26, 2001

Little League World Series Championship game

President Bush became the first sitting president to visit the Little League World Series and was enshrined in the Little League's Hall of Excellence, as the first former Little League player to become president.

June 8, 2001

College World Series: Stanford vs. Tulane, Omaha, NE

April 6, 2001

Milwaukee Brewers vs. Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee WI

Sen. DeWine (R-OH), perhaps realizing that America's favorite pastime can possibly overcome low poll numbers in a given news cycle, is expected to attend the game with President Bush.

In other non-sports events, First Lady Laura Bush is on the campaign trail today in New Mexico and then travels to Nebraska. Mrs. Bush helps Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) raise money for her reelection campaign in Albuquerque, NM this morning before heading to a classroom for a "Helping America's Youth" event. Mrs. Bush then travels to Boys Town, NE for her second "Helping America's Youth" event of the day.

The immigration debate continues on the Senate floor today. The House of Representatives is in a pro forma session today.

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) holds a 1:00 pm ET press conference to criticize the Bush Administration's handling of body armor for troops in Iraq.

Sen. John McCain and former President George H. W. Bush will make for a pretty photograph this evening when the Senator heads to College Station, TX to deliver a speech in the Twanna M. Powell lecture series at Texas A & M.

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) addresses the Building Trades conference in Washington, DC this morning.

Sen. Bayh will also join DSCC Chairman Sen. Chuck Schumer at a 2:30 pm ET press conference "to release new polling data that shows - for the first time ever - that Democrats would defeat the Republicans in November even if the election is focused exclusively on national security issues."

Former Gov. Mark Warner (D-VA) speaks about his record as governor in Cambridge, MA. ThirdWay and Rep. Jane Harman's SecureUS PAC host a training session on national security for 35 Democratic House candidates in Washington, DC. A 12:30 pm ET press avail will be followed by a 1:00 pm ET luncheon program featuring former Defense Secretary William Perry and former Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL).

RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman delivers a speech at a Booker T. Washington celebration in Crystal City, VA.

Be sure to check out our look at the political week ahead below.

Politics of immigration:

The New Yorker's Talk of the Town has Grover Norquist saying: "We can't afford to do to Hispanics what we did to the Roman Catholics in the late nineteenth century: tell them we don't like them and lose their vote for a hundred years."

The Globe's Michael Kranish on the "chasm" between the Senate and House and among House conservatives. Per Kranish, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is insisting on a Friday vote on a revised version of the Senate Judiciary Committee proposal. LINK

Washington Times' Charles Hurt writes that in addition to the "amnesty" debate over the Senate Judiciary Committee's proposal, the GOP is split over an amendment that would enable illegals to get in-state tuition rates. LINK

Ron Brownstein columnized over the weekend that President Bush may have allowed the gap between the House and Senate to grow "so wide" on immigration that no agreement will be possible, even if the Senate overcomes its own divisions to pass an immigration bill. LINK

Kathy Kiely of USA Today shares the views of four Hispanic lawmakers on the immigration issue. LINK

David Jackson of USA Today rounds up the immigration comments made on this week's Sunday shows. LINK

On Sunday, "Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, the archbishop of Los Angeles, called on Roman Catholics in Southern California to observe a special day of fasting and prayer Wednesday in solidarity with undocumented immigrants and to pray for lawmakers as they debated immigration policy in Washington. Mahony is to celebrate a special Mass at noon Wednesday at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles to mark the day." LINK

Politics of Iraq:

As the 2006 election approaches, there is significantly more pressure on the Administration to show progress in Iraq, and the New Yorker's George Packer suggests that the Defense Department will continue to diminish its role, handing over an increasing number of duties to the State Department. "But the State Department has nothing like the resources -- money, equipment, personnel -- of Defense," Packer writes.

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) tells Packer, "Most Republicans know that they're connected to Bush and his fortunes and his poll numbers. Iraq has been consistently the No. 1 issue in the polls."

A former Administration official summed up the three years of the Iraq war as three successive kinds of failure: "There was an intellectual failure at the start. There was an implementation failure after that. And now there's a failure of political will."

William F. Buckley, Jr. echoes a handful of conservatives who deem the Iraq war -- and thus the Bush presidency -- as a failure, write Heidi Przybyla and Judy Woodruff (!!!!!) of Bloomberg News. LINK

Bolten succeeds Card:

Time Magazine's Mike Allen reports that Andy Card didn't want to go but he "heard the tom-toms," according to someone who knows him well. LINK

The day Josh Bolten was promoted, he began making the first of many calls to lawmakers, including one that pleasantly surprised Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA).

"'I'm not a big fish,' Kingston admitted, 'and he said, 'We're interested in what you're hearing out there and what you guys on the Hill have to say. We want your input.'' Now the challenge for the new chief, and his boss, is what to do with it."

Oddly absent from Allen's analysis: the concept of K.C. Rove. The New York Times' Edmund Andrews writes up Bolten's congressional outreach process that is underway in advance of his becoming chief of staff in a couple of weeks. LINK

Per the Washington Times' Donald Lambro, former White House advisors are predicting that, given his experience, Josh Bolten will be in a position to better promote economic gains to the American public. LINK

Bush Administration and agenda:

The Cincinnati Reds shared the Great American Ballpark with the Secret Service to prep for today's visit from President Bush, reports the AP's Joe Kay. LINK

Bloomberg News' Sophie Hayward writes that Bush's all-time low approval ratings negatively impact stocks "by causing concern about his Republican Party's ability to maintain control of Congress. Proposals such as an extension of lower tax rates on dividends and capital gains may be at risk." LINK

The AP's Tom Raum kicks off another week of "GOP angst" with his look at the near-constant flow of criticism of the Bush Administration Republicans are offering of late. LINK

"More Calls for Rumsfeld to Leave," reads the New York Times headline above its write up of Gen. Zinni's "Meet the Press" comments. LINK

In his Sunday column, Bob Novak floated US Trade Representative Rob Portman's name as a possible successor to John Snow at Treasury. LINK

Al Hubbard makes the case for "Health Savings Accounts" on the New York Times op-ed page. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Sarah Lueck reports that Hubbard has ruffled feathers among providers with his call for transparency in medical prices.

Big Casino budget politics:

Carl Hulse of the New York Times looks at the conservative/moderate divide within the House Republican conference on the budget bill. LINK

Politics of Medicare:

"The chaotic Medicare prescription drug program seems to be stumbling less lately. Complaints and call waiting times are diminishing, and many previously uninsured patients are clearly saving money on drug purchases," writes the New York Times editorial board before discussing what it sees as two major remaining hurdles: the end of the emergency medicine grace period for Medicaid recipients and the May 15 enrollment deadline. LINK

Campaign finance:

The Wall Street Journal's ed board chides Republicans for their plans to curb 527s this week. "The solution here isn't to tilt at the windmill of closing this or that 'loophole,' because there will always be another such loophole as long as there are money and politics. If Republicans ban 527s, which at least have to disclose the names of their contributors, the money will move to 501(c)4s, which can keep their donors to themselves."

"If Republicans were smart and consistent, they'd instead broadcast the failure of McCain-Feingold, exploit 527s themselves to level the playing field, and call for the entire campaign-finance system to be deregulated."

The New Hampshire Union Leader's editorial page is also none too pleased with the recent Republican efforts to reduce 527s' influence, arguing that "this is about the party in power brazenly and thuggishly trying to suppress the free speech rights of its weaker political opponents. It must not be tolerated, no matter which party happens to be doing it." &LINK

Lobbying reform:

Sunday's Boston Globe looked at the earmark loopholes in the recently passed lobbying reform bill. LINK

Dean's Democrats:

The Washington Post's Fred Hiatt chides the Democrats' security strategy for lacking a discussion of "values, of liberty or generosity, of free markets or foreign aid – of any purpose for American leadership larger than self-protection. The pollsters may be satisfied, but John F. Kennedy would not recognize his party." LINK


Former fundraiser for Tom DeLay's ARMPAC, Ed Buckham, apparently used the organization's fundraising activities to land lobbying clients, reports the Houston Chronicle's R.G. Ratcliffe. LINK

Politics of abortion:

The New York Times' Banerjee writes of a gathering of clergy, organized by Planned Parenthood, in support of abortion rights. LINK

2006: New Orleans mayoral election:

Los Angeles Times' Lianne Hart reports that ACORN plans to send bus caravans to Louisiana from Houston and five other cities so that Katrina survivors can cast their votes in person. LINK

The Washington Times' Greg Pierce Notes a report from the "Poverty & Race" publication which indicates Lt. Gov. Mitchell Landrieu, brother of Sen. Mary Landrieu, is the most likely candidate to become first white mayor of New Orleans since 1978. LINK


According to Roll Call's Stu Rothenberg, the question isn't whether Democrats can nationalize elections, but whether Republicans can localize them.

In New York Magazine, Ryan Lizza imagines a world where Sen. Schumer is successful in his efforts to recapture control of the Senate for the Democrats and what that might mean for the final two years of the Bush-Cheney Administration. LINK

Steven Thomma of Knight Ridder has what seems to be Newt Gingrich's weekly caution that Republicans can lose control of the Congress this year. LINK

On a 1:00 pm ET conference call with reporters, MoveOn will unveil a $1.3 million television ad buy today, blasting four members of Congress for their "Big Oil Votes."

The ads will target Reps. Chris Chocola (R-IN), Thelma Drake (R-VA), Nancy Johnson (R-CT) and Deborah Pryce (R-OH) for "taking money from oil and energy companies and then supporting laws that give away billions to these companies while ordinary Americans pay more at the pump."

MoveOn describes these four districts as ones that "lean competitive but need an extra push." Kimberly Moore of the Florida Today gives us a list of the people who took off from Katherine Harris' campaign on Saturday, having Harris saying that "we have real professionals coming on board" and her former campaign manager disagreeing: "She had the best people in the country. This is a campaign that is spiraling downward by the minute and the smartest thing for her to do would be to get out of the race." LINK

In a front-page, second of three parts cover story, San Francisco Chronicle's Erin McCormick and Marc Sandalow probe into House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's ability to raise more money for other candidate's campaigns than any other Democrat since 1999. LINK

Thomas Beaumont of the Des Moines Register points out that the race for Iowa's first district is about to heat up and "take the place reserved for it in the national spotlight. . ." LINK

Set your TiVo for the May 20 Des Moines Register gubernatorial Democratic primary debate. LINK

Lynn Swann gets the Mark Leibovich treatment in the Washington Post's Style section -- a swan song, if you will, for Leibovich himself. LINK

Writing about the candidate's recent "This Week" appearance, Leibo says, "Although some prominent Pennsylvania Republicans privately say they found the Stephanopoulos interview troubling, supporters of Swann ascribe this early turbulence to inexperience. They say the candidate will improve with time."

The AP's Ryan Foley reports that several factors, including mediocre approval numbers and the exit of Scott Walker from the race, are combining to make Gov. Jim Doyle's (D-WI) effort to retain his office against Rep. Mark Green (R-WI) increasingly difficult. LINK

Todd Gillman of the Dallas Morning News Notes that House candidate and veteran Van Taylor (R-TX) will have a tough time holding his security credentials over moderate incumbent Chet Edwards (D-TX) in November. LINK

Neil Vigdor of the Greenwich Time Notes that First Lady Laura Bush will be in Greenwich, CT, "the birthplace of the Bush dynasty" on April 24 for a fundraiser to benefit the GOP and the reelection campaign of Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT). LINK

Fred Dicker of the New York Post writes about the nation's most covered attorney general race that Mark Green may have trouble getting the required 25 percent of the vote at the New York Democratic Committee convention next month, which is needed for an automatic spot on the September primary ballot. Andrew Cuomo appears to be racking up the party support, reports Dicker. LINK

New Hampshire:

The New Hampshire Union Leader editorial board urges Gov. John Lynch (D-NH) to "do a lot more" to protect New Hampshire's primary. &LINK

Former Gov. Mark Warner and Sen. Russ Feingold have nabbed speaking slots at the annual New Hampshire Democratic State Convention on June 3.


In a must read, Time's Joe Klein writes that Dr./Leader/Sen. Frist has become "the ultimate political opportunist" on immigration, Sen. McCain has undermined his reputation for fiscal responsibility by voting to extend some of the Bush tax cuts in capital gains and dividend income rates, and Sen. Clinton has "diminished" herself by saying during the Dubai port uproar that "Our port security is too important to place in the hands of foreign governments." LINK

Klein opines that the litmus test in 2008 will be, "Which candidate is willing to tell me something-anything-that resembles the truth? The John McCain of 2000 was. The question is, Who's going to be the John McCain of 2008?"

2008: Republicans:

The "It's Hard Out There For A Majority Leader Who Wants To Be President" publicity tour continues today with Sheryl Gay Stolberg's New York Times look at Sen./Dr./Leader Frist's "perilous path" from one end of Pennsylvania Avenue to the other. (Be sure to Note the appearance of a surprisingly sensational Charlie Cook.) LINK

"As for Mr. McCain: his denunciation of Mr. Falwell and Mr. Robertson six years ago helped give him a reputation as a moderate on social issues. Now that he has made up with Mr. Falwell and endorsed South Dakota's ban on abortion even in the case of rape or incest, only two conclusions are possible: either he isn't a social moderate after all, or he's a cynical political opportunist," concludes Paul Krugman in his New York Times column. LINK

"Sen. John McCain started feeling the heat of being the GOP White House front-runner yesterday," writes Michael McAuliff of the New York Daily News on DNC efforts to paint McCain as a flip-flopper in light of his embrace of Jerry Falwell. LINK

The Washington Times picks up John McIntyre's column looking at how McCain's closeness with the press could be an impediment in a GOP nomination battle. LINK

McCain's tough talk about Vladimir Putin on "Meet the Press" gets some New York Post coverage. LINK

When asked on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" if his immigration position was taking on President Bush, who supports comprehensive reform now, Sen. Allen said: "Well, unless the comprehensive reform and any of this so-called temporary worker, guest worker, unless that does not reward illegal behavior, I don't think we ought to be passing anything that rewards illegal behavior or amnesty. Is that different than the president's position? Apparently so . . ." Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) made the case for arts education in a letter to the editor published in Sunday's New York Times. LINK

2008: Democrats:

The Des Moines Register's Tom Beaumont reported over the weekend that Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA) has hired Jeff Link to help chart Vilsack's national strategy this year. LINK

The New York Post's Ian Bishop writes up Sen. Clinton's support for Sen. Menendez's gun control legislation. LINK

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) is adamant about issues like immigration and port security, but Chris Smith Notes in New York Magazine's April 10 issue that she's hard to pin down on international issues like free trade. LINK

Pollster Frank Luntz says Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) needs to be more passionate if he's going to make a successful run in 2008, per Maureen Groppe of the Indianapolis Star. LINK

In an interview with "Fox News Sunday," Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) claimed that keeping President Bush in check holds more significance than the Watergate scandal and insisted on a censure vote, writes Washington Times' Audrey Hudson. LINK

The Schwarzenegger Era:

With a must-see photograph of California's governor kissing former Senate Democratic leader John Burton, the Los Angeles Times' Peter Nicholas writes that away from the public, Gov. Schwarzenegger is more freewheeling and hard to predict. LINK

Under legislation expected to be introduced today, California would become the first state in the U.S. to mandate a broad cap on global-warming emissions, reports the Wall Street Journal's Jeffrey Ball. The California measure would make mandatory a voluntary emissions-reductions target announced by Gov. Schwarzenegger last June. "It isn't clear exactly how California would apportion responsibility for the emissions cuts among the state's power plants, refineries and factories and other emitters."


In Sunday's paper, the New York Times' Nagourney explored the ever-increasing role of the Internet in political campaigns. LINK

In a piece that highlights efforts being made by Lynn Swann's (R) gubernatorial campaign and former Gov. Mark Warner's nascent presidential campaign, the Washington Post's Zachary Goldfarb reports that political consultants expect the use of Web videos to expand "substantially" in Senate and House campaigns in 2006 -- a preview of "an even greater breakout in 2008." LINK

Anne Kornblut deconstructed the Washington "chattering classes" (a/k/a the "Gang of 500") in Sunday's New York Times. LINK

After failing to see results on social issues from the GOP, some conservative "values voters" are looking at new ways to achieve their goals, writes Wayne Slater of the Dallas Morning News. LINK

Bob Novak provides some blog fodder in his column. Novak writes that the Mar. 19 edition of "60 Minutes," which featured the global warming warnings of NASA's James E. Hansen, was a "one-sided political presentation that ignored the real scientific debate." LINK

According to White House communications director Nicolle Wallace, '''60 Minutes' never contacted the press office.''


The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz reports that the AP's dismissal of Vermont bureau chief Chris Graff has prompted protests from Sens. Leahy (D) and Jim Jeffords (I), Rep. Bernie Sanders (I) and Gov. Jim Douglas (R). LINK

Week ahead:

President Bush talks about his health care initiatives at the White House tomorrow before raising some money at a RNC luncheon. First Lady Laura Bush is scheduled to be in Missouri tomorrow for a "Helping America's Youth" event and a Jim Talent fundraiser.

The President will continue to push his "Health Savings Accounts" in Bridgeport, CT on Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, Rudy Giuliani keynotes the 2006 Investment Capital Conference in Los Angeles, CA.

President Bush heads to Charlotte, NC on Thursday to deliver remarks on the "Global War on Terror."

On Friday, Vice President Cheney attends a fundraiser for Senate candidate Michael Steele (R-MD) in Washington, DC, Sen. John McCain attends a fundraiser for New Hampshire State Senate Republicans in Concord, NH, Former Gov. Mark Warner addresses Missouri Democrats as part of the annual Jackson Day event in Springfield, MO, and Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS) keynotes the South Carolina GOP Silver Elephant dinner in Colombia, SC.